Chapter 2 - The Long Strike of 1875
In the month of December, 1874, Franklin Gowen and the other mine owners collaborated in offering to the newly formed miner’s union, the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association, a drastic cut in pay. The coal miners denounced the cut in pay, deciding to strike against the mine owners instead. The strike, lasting until June the following year, had devastating effects upon the miners and their families. Many families went without food, for months. There were also riots and demonstrations, by the miners, against the mine owner’s operations. Strikebreakers were often assaulted by the striking miners, in order to induce a uniform strategy of shutting down all coal mining operations.
During the murder trial, the prosecution brought into evidence that Hugh McGeehan was in Tamaqua at the head of a parade. He was the leader of a procession who came to that town when there was a strike of the laboring men, and it is not improbable that Mr. Yost, as a policeman, saw McGeehan (West, page 18).
A contemporary newspaper described the demonstration on April 6th, 1875: “At noon today a large body of miners from Summit Hill collieries arrived in Tamaqua and made a street demonstration. They were headed by a solitary drummer and a man carrying an American flag. Every person carried a heavy cudgel and looked as if prepared for business. The object of the display was to induce the men working at Colonel Cake’s Philadelphia breaker to strike. The appearance of the strikers made considerable excitement in the town, and the Lehigh men were greeted in a loyal manner by the Schuylkill brethren. Four hundred miners paraded the streets today at Tamaqua. They went to the mines located near this town and found that the men had all quit work. They fired their revolvers in the air and informed the proprietors that they had no objection to coal being mined for the town’s own consumption, but none should be shipped abroad, which was agreed to. They made no disturbance and conducted themselves quietly.”
So, herein, we have evidence that definitively, Hugh McGeehan, and most probably, James Boyle, participated as leaders of demonstrations against the collieries in the Tamaqua area, including that of Shepp’s colliery. In some demonstrations, Robert Linden, Pinkerton Supervisor, Detective McParland’s secret contact and Captain of the Coal and Iron Police, utilized the Coal and Iron Police to protect collieries from such demonstrations and riots. The identification of the leaders of the demonstrations, reinforced the Coal Companies’ theory that these Irishmen were part of the Molly Maguires conspiracy. During some of these riots, colliery guards were severely beaten and injured. Strikebreakers or scabs were dealt with accordingly, as well.
This violence cannot be denied. But does this retribution to perceived injustice to the coal miners relate to the prosecution of the murder of this police officer? There is no evidence, presented from either side, that the murder of Officer Yost is related to coal operations or the long strike.